Any excuse to leave the City and head North to Forestville is good enough for us. This time it was to attend the wonderful Lucky Mojo Curio Company Workshop Weekend put on by the Missionary Independent Spiritual Church. Last year had been a blast and this year looked to be even better. We were excited to make the trip and happy to be able to have two days of absorbing the great energy of the Lucky Mojo grounds. This year we brought a friend, Claudia, who was our fearless and smooth navigator/driver. We were all amused to find that the Zipcar we had secured for the weekend was a giant, candy apple red, Mom-mobile, minivan! Road Party! It felt like we were in our own private jumbo jet as we sailed across the Golden Gate Bridge to our destination.
Remembering the ridiculous amount of hard work required to get everything ready, on track, and running smoothly last year, Sara and I had previously offered our services to Sister Robin Petersen, Manager and all around Super Woman of the shop, and she gladly accepted. As soon as we ran up to the shop we got busy and stayed helpful for the entire weekend. It felt great to give back in any small way that we were able to, be it stuffing goodie-bags for workshops or moving tables and chairs. Some workshops we took together and some separately, so here’s what our weekend was like…
Sarayeye, A Santeria Blessing and Road Opening Ceremony
Arriving at Lucky Mojo early this year was a treat, as last year we had a late start and missed the opening ceremony. Since this year’s opening was going to be a Sarayeye Afro-Cuban Lukumi Blessing and Road Opening Ceremony led by Dr. E, we were elated to have made it with plenty of time to spare.
This was a beautiful way to start off the entire workshop weekend. Dr. E. performed this ceremony with the assistance of his lovely mother, Vicky, as well as fellow practitioners Lou Florez and Conjureman Ali. Dr. E gathered the long stems of herbs needed for the ceremony from the grounds of Lucky Mojo and arranged everyone into a circle, in order from youngest to oldest. The branches to be used for the cleansing were sprayed with rum, smoked with a cigar and the oracles were consulted for approval before beginning. Dr. E. taught us the call and response chant, which brought us all together, making the bond even stronger, all of our voices becoming powerful as one. Starting with the youngest person first, we each stepped into the circle to be brushed off with the blessed branches by Dr. E., Vicky or Conjureman Ali and then back to our places, chanting back and forth with Dr. E. the whole time. The best part was Sophie, Cat and Nagasiva’s beautiful Portuguese water dog, racing back and forth across the circle with excitement, jumping around, barking here and there amongst the chanting and generally getting charged up!
It was a pleasure to see the care and respect with which the Opening was conducted. The cigar smoke, the mouth-sprayed rum, the long herb branches, all brought a feeling of contentedness to the morning. Off to a very good start, there were tears, laughter and smiles all around on everyone’s faces.
While Sara went off to do the Prosperity Class with Sindy Todo and Susan Diamond, I grabbed a cup of good urn-brewed coffee and went to see my favorite chickens in all of California. The coop was buzzing with activity and I sat on the concrete viewing bench to watch as the frizzly little cuties pecked around and crowed at me. It was a wonderful day already, the sun (outside of San Francisco especially) not being shy and coming on in full force. Thankfully, there are plenty of purposefully overgrown nooks to sit under and get a reprieve from the sun, if needed. The clean air and warm sun were working wonders on my mood.
Prosperity Spells: Money Drawing in the Conjure Tradition
Sara: Taught by the exquisite Auntie Sindy Todo and Susan Diamond, this workshop was fantastic and turned out to be quite different than what I expected…in a good way! I thought we would go step by step through one or two specific money drawing spells, but it ended up being a lot more thorough and in-depth. The main focus of the workshop was your mindset when doing prosperity spells and narrowing in on what it is you really want before you start asking for it. I think this is something many, many people overlook and it was a great approach to teaching this kind of work. The idea that it’s not so much about what color your candle is or what kind of oil you use, but that your intent must be very clear and focused. Not that your candles, oils and other items aren’t important – those are your tools and should definitely be chosen thoughtfully, but it’s not the tools that make things happen…it’s you. Sindy and Susan really got the point across that you’ll have difficulty being successful with prosperity work if you can’t get to the true root of what it is you want. Susan gave a great example of her own experience with this when she needed a new car. She recounted that she had been doing work to draw in money so that she could afford to buy a car, but after working this for a time, there wasn’t any real movement. Then she changed her approach to focus on getting the car and not the money. Wouldn’t you know it, before too long it worked out that someone ended up giving her a car! Sindy and Susan taught me that to be successful at drawing things into your life you need be honest with yourself about what it is you need, let go of worrying about how it will come and be open to receiving in unexpected ways. The take-away treat from this workshop was a magical Rose of Jericho plant. Also known as the Resurrection Plant, this thing is amazing! A desert plant that can live without water for long periods of time, it stays curled in on itself like a cocoon and looks like it’s dead. When placed in a shallow dish of water it miraculously unfurls and turns green again! You can place your petitions and charms amongst it’s fern like leaves and then let close up again, going through this cycle rebirth over and over. In the last week, I’ve found it to be quite powerful to have this living creature on my altar and it’s made me tend to my altar a lot more than I already do.
Supernatural Protection and Spirit Traps
Next up was Conjureman Ali’s workshop on Supernatural Protection and Spirit Traps, which we took together.
Joseph: It was great getting to meet Conjureman Ali this year, as he did not attend the workshops last year. Having him sign his St. Cyprian book was a nice addition to the weekend. As a University Lecturer, Conjureman Ali is a natural fit to speak and teach in front of many people. His clear way of speaking and immense knowledge on the subject made every minute full of valuable information. We discussed Djinn Traps and Bowls, Witch Bottles, and other Spirit Traps throughout the years and different continents. While we were not strangers to witch bottles and spirit traps, having him there to add flavor to each ingredient we added was a worthwhile addition. We got to make and take home beautiful cobalt blue glass spirit traps.
Sara: I was super excited to take this workshop and to hear Conjureman Ali speak on this subject. Well, I was excited to hear Conjureman Ali speak on any subject really (!), but definitely this one in particular. Being a lecturer is already one of his many talents, so needless to say he was an excellent speaker. He started with the history of supernatural protection and spirit traps and went into various methods and techniques before guiding us through making our own spirit bottle in the Hoodoo tradition. Having my own interest in ancient cultures, it was especially interesting to hear him speak of his personal travels and experiences throughout the world. I learned that this kind of work is not tied to a specific tradition and the methods for creating and using sprit vessels across all cultures have lots of commonalities. We got to make our own spirit bottle and it was a great hands-on experience to understand the principles behind it. We each got a cobalt blue, corked bottle and filled them with ingredients intended to lure and bind the spirit, as well as herbs for protection.
Each day saw a spread of food that made us happily groan with pleasure. Swedish meatballs, huge salads, lasagna, gumbo, baked beans, delicious chili, bread, rolls, cookies, the list goes on and on. Everyone who was for want of nourishment got well fed and more than a few had to be rolled to their cars at the end of each day. Piling a plate with home-cooked food, in Miss Cat’s kitchen, among the vintage Halloween decorations is always a treat for me and worth the price of the weekend. Even if you end up taking only one Workshop, the grounds are open to all and the food and company is included.
Bone Reading: Hands on Training
The wonderful Miss Catherine Yronwode just wrote a book titled, Throwing The Bones: How To Foretell The Future With Bones, Shells, And Nuts, which is an amazing resource. Everyone got a copy of the book, as well as a starter bone reading set. For those of us who had already purchased this set prior to the workshop, we got to trade in the set from the workshop and pick out an equivalent value of new pieces to add to our existing set. This is another workshop that we took together.
Joseph: This workshop was mainly spent going over the book and listening to Miss Cat speak about the different ways to divine using these different techniques, as well as all the interesting tidbits and stories she encountered while researching the book. Since I already had the starter bone set, at the table that was laid out with dozens of different bones and other additions, I traded mine in for the Human Finger Bone I have been coveting, as well as another doll arm, doll’s head, and petrified walrus molar. The extra cash I had to kick in, on top of the credit I got for trading in the set, was well worth it. The workshop concluded with Cat doing an example reading for us in the way that she finds most effective for her. It was good to see her go through a bone divination, even if it was a quick one. Sometimes just seeing someone else do work that you do yourself is enough to bolster one’s idea that they are doing it correctly.
Sara: Cat’s knowledge on this subject is immense and she covered a very thorough overview of bone reading in about an hour and a half. It’s always mind-melting to listen to Miss Cat speak on a specific subject because she is a seemingly limitless fountain of knowledge. I did learn a lot about bone reading, but it was more from a theoretical aspect and I did wish we had more time to go through the practical applications with a little more hands-on guidance. Since I already had the starter set, I was able to trade for two cat ankle bones, a lion paw bone and a circular rabbit amulet made of carved bone. I can’t wait to finish reading the book, consecrate my bones and start learning how to read this powerful oracle.
The Bone Reading Workshop brought the first day to a close and we mingled among, and talked with, old friends and acquaintances, as well as new folks we were able to meet for the first time. All instructors made themselves very available for questions and additional comments and there was a general atmosphere of community. It is always worth it to be able to mingle amongst so many practitioners, students, and fellow magical persons in such a nice, lush setting.
To save on cash we decided to make the drive to and from Lucky Mojo from SF each day, since it’s only about an hour and half. The drive back was gone in a flash as we discussed everything that had happened that first day and all of the conversations we had with various friends. We had a small after party/gathering at the house and continued our conversation on magical workings into the morning. Sleep came on easily and heavy. The next morning saw a groggy, coffee fueled wake up for us all. As we were carrying our coffees to the Red Rocketship we were piloting, a giant Raven descended and took a passing interest in us….cawing and side stepping around us. Always a good sign!
Working with Santisima Muerte
Joseph: Sunday’s Workshop day started with Lou Florez’s ‘Working with Santisima Muerte’ class. Anyone coming onto the Lucky Mojo grounds, and peeking under the giant double tent set up for the larger classes, was greeted by the grand Santisima Muerte altar that had been previously set up the morning before by Lou Florez and Sister Robin. It was a sight to behold and certainly one of the largest and most powerful altars I had laid eyes on. The workshop focused on proper veneration of Santisima Muerte, as well as the proper construction of prepared and loaded sugar skull candles. Lou Florez is an extremely knowledgeable practitioner and petitioner and it showed during his presentation. The love coming off of him for working with Santisima Muerte was infectious. Personally, I have felt drawn to her for some time, but did not want to approach lightly or frivolously, or until I felt right about doing so. During the class, while extremely focused on constructing my sugar skull and candle, I felt it. I actually felt the pull intensify and click. (More blog posts to come on the continuing acknowledgement from and to Santisima Muerte!) We shared bowls of herbs, resins, and decorations. We were told the altar was up and running and was available for any of us to approach and petition, or leave our skull candle petitions, lit, on the altar. Many people leaving the workshop needed a minute to reflect on their experience. It was a personal highlight of the entire weekend for me.
The Cursing Colloquium: Beyond the Valley of the Doll-Babies
This workshop was very different from all the others, as it was set up as a panel discussion with no hands-on activities – just listen and learn from those who know best! The panel consisted of Deacon Millet, Ms. Robin York, Dr. E., Conjureman Ali, Miss Catherine Yronwode and Nagasiva Yronwode. We also took this workshop together.
Joseph: The panelists went down the row and alternated telling tips and tricks for cursing and crossing work. The hour and a half could have easily been extended to 2 to 4 hours with the amount of information that was being shared and the questions being answered. We were all privy to a particular cursing work done very successfully by Miss Cat using tarot cards. One of the clear highlights of the weekend was getting to watch Cat demonstrate a proper way to curse someone using their foot tracks, a multi-tailed leather whip, and enough curse words to empty out a saloon. With each of the six panel individuals sharing advice, the time flew by. Each person was given a few really valuable hand-outs, a package of herbs and a white candle for cleansing after performing a curse, and a random package of cursing, jinxing, or crossing incense, sachet powder, or bath crystals. This was particularly a good idea as it gave the receiver a product that they may have never purchased or used for themselves. A few attendees walked away from the class glad to have taken it, and even more sure that cursing work was not right for them. Others left with a new bag of tricks to think on!
Sara: Throughout the workshop the panelists went down the line, taking turns sharing their favorite ways to perform cursing, jinxing, break-up and reversing work. It was especially great to listen to Nagasiva, as he doesn’t usually give workshops or take on students, so his personal practices were not familiar to me and his thoughts and ideas on this subject were extremely interesting and insightful. Ms. Robin shared a coffin-shaped mirror box she made, while Miss Cat demonstrated how to whip someone’s foot tracks. Armed with a real whip, Miss Cat smacked the table yelling out all the curse words you can imagine and, although we were all cracking up, she definitely made her point! We each got handouts on various methods of performing this kind of work, as well as packets of Lucky Mojo incense, sachet powder or bath crystals – each person’s bag had two packets and everyone’s was different. For all the nice, helpful work I know these practitioners do, it was really exciting to see this “other side” to them. It proved that doing cursing doesn’t mean you’re a black-hearted person or worshiping evil (which is a common misconception) and showed that you can have a balance in the type of work you do for your clients.
Directly after the Cursing Workshop ended, Sister Robin appeared with a cake and we all sang Happy Birthday to Miss Cat, as her special day always occurs very near the weekend’s early May date. Smiles and hugs were freely available and cake was passed out to the sweet-toothed attendees and teachers.
It was great to see the tents being used for individual readings in between classes. Miss Michaele was there offering readings, as well as Miss Elvyra Curcuruto-Love. Students traded readings with each other and handfuls of business cards were exchanged. Networking, conversation, and spirited back-and-forths were blooming up all over the grounds. The shop was open each day and it is always great to have a few hours of down-time between classes to browse the shelves of the shop looking for lost treasures and new items to add to the arsenal. The shop was extremely well staffed and working on super-crazy-over-drive. The phone was ringing off the hook, random walk-ins were brisk as ever, and the many attending the workshops were rubbing elbows as they browsed the wares together.
After milling about for a bit, we went to Carr’s Drive-In for some ridiculously good (as always) food and expertly made lemonades. We talked for at least an hour about all the people we knew on-line that we were able to meet, how well the day was progressing, and traded notes about the previous workshops.
Egg Cleansing and the Meditation of Saint Michael
Sara: This was the last workshop of the whole weekend and was intentionally scheduled after the Cursing Colloquium. It was the second workshop taught by Auntie Sindy Todo and Susan Diamond and it was my favorite workshop of the whole weekend. Held under the tents on the lawn of the Lucky Mojo grounds, Sindy and Susan had everyone clear themselves and their stuff out of the space and move all tables out, leaving only a few rows of chairs. Both dressed all in ivory, they proceeded to smoke and cleanse the space with what I believe was a mix of sage and Palo Santo, and the we were allowed to take our seats. We each received a brown chicken egg that came from the black hens that live at Lucky Mojo – amazing. They talked to us about the power of Saint Michael, the Archangel, and stressed that you don’t have to be Catholic to call on him; that he is found across many cultures and religions and is here to help us. We all closed our eyes and breathed deeply while Susan led us through a guided meditation to bring in Saint Michael. As she spoke, we held the egg over our chakra points and allowed the egg to absorb the energies causing blocks in those areas. Sindy walked among us all, assisting those who needed help when their energy was feeling stuck. Only a few minutes into the meditation, I began weeping. Not sobbing or even feeling sad, but just weeping. Tears are cleansing and the power of this experience was completely involuntary. Saint Michael was there with us, I could feel it, and it moved me like a ton of bricks. With his mighty sword, he cut through the spheres of negative goop that block the smooth flow of energy through my body and the egg was there to collect it, so as not to send those negative things back out into the world. The small brown eggs felt so light and delicate when we first received them, but after the meditation my egg felt like it was full of oatmeal – heavy and goopy. It was very surreal but undeniable. Afterward, I was able to catch Auntie Sindy and, with tears still streaming down face, thank and hug her for this life-changing experience.
The list of people we were able to meet, or catch up with, is huge. Some of the greatest people were in attendance and we were able to meet so many friends and acquaintances. Being among others that share your passion for hoodoo and magic is highly recommended. Whether to cement the fact that you can hold your own in conversation regarding magical workings, or to just be among a large group of people who will not laugh if you bring up a magical topic, but will share your enthusiasm, as well as share advice and their own thoughts on the matter. Physically being IN a group of your community and peers is as positive as any situation that I can think of.
A huge thank you goes out to Miss Catherine Yronwode and all at the Lucky Mojo Curio Company for allowing us the opportunity to gather, learn, trade information, and have one hell of a weekend bash. For allowing us access to their home and grounds and putting so much energy into whipping an entire weekend full of magic into shape. Sara and I hope to be able to do the same in the future and these last two years of attending the Workshop Weekends have given us such a standard to live up to!
For further pictures from the weekend, please check out “Love Potion No. 9” (also known as Trisha) Flickr page, as ours are still being sorted and edited.